New York Daily News


Memories of rookie cop — & decent pay Slain in '87, he earned equivalent of 48G

February 11, 2007

BY ALISON GENDAR and TRACY CONNOR DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

    Michael Reidy
  Michael Reidy

Twenty years ago, a rookie cop cashed his $1,000 paycheck, bought groceries, walked into his Bronx apartment building and was killed in a gunfight with a mugger.

The rookie's name was Michael Reidy, and his death was a reminder that a bullet fired at a police officer pays no mind to how many years he has on the job.

Reidy was 26 years old and he had tried college and waited tables. When he joined the NYPD, he thought he had found a career.

He liked the stationhouse camaraderie and using his people skills on the beat. And he liked the salary - $25,977 then, or about $48,000 in today's dollars.

Some might find that ironic given that today's rookies, any of whom might be forced to make the same sacrifice, are paid a paltry $25,100 in the academy and $32,700 a year afterward.

"It's a disgrace," Reidy's sister Nora Keating told the Daily News. "We pay our teachers more money than our police officers. They're putting their life on the line every single day."

Reidy was the youngest of six growing up in the Fordham Road section of the Bronx. He went to St. Nicholas of Tolentine High School and took courses at Lehman College. He cared for his widowed mother and worked at a Beefsteak Charlie's restaurant.

"One day he said he was going to take the police test. He said I should, too," said Sgt. Kathleen Heavey, a childhood pal. "I said our parents would kill us since we were both in college."

But Reidy took it and did well.

"He was over the moon," Heavey said. "He was so happy."

They both entered the Police Academy on Jan. 9, 1986, and after he tossed up his white gloves at graduation and got his gun and badge, he was assigned to the 41st Precinct in the Bronx, infamously known as Fort Apache.

"There we were in our brand new blue uniforms, walking a foot post in an unfamiliar section of the Bronx," Heavey said. "There were no cell phones in those days. You patrolled alone. There was a lot of 'airmail' - people throwing air conditioners and bottles off roofs.

"This was the late '80s. New York was a crazy place."

The insanity of it came crashing home Jan. 23, 1987, after Reidy cashed a check for two weeks' work plus holiday pay and headed home.

Toting groceries and newspapers, he stepped into the vestibule of 2336 University Ave. An armed thug, Angel Maldonado, was close behind him.

Maldonado, who needed cash to pay a parking ticket, followed Reidy and tried to push his way into the cop's first-floor apartment. Shots were fired, and a slug pierced Reidy's heart.

"Michael emptied his gun - he always had it - but he was already hit," Heavey said. "I know he put up a good fight."

Rushed to the hospital, Reidy could not be saved. He is one of at least nine NYPD rookies killed in the line of duty in the history of the department.

Reidy's family was devastated.

One of his brothers who was a Jesuit priest "never got over" the loss, Keating said. His mother moved to Ohio to escape the memories and didn't even return for the unveiling of a memorial to her slain son.

Had he lived, Reidy would be 46 years old today and eligible for retirement from the NYPD.

"He'd have a family, he'd have kids," his sister said. "He might still be with my mother, taking care of her."

Heavey thinks Reidy would have earned some stripes.

"Mike would have done 20 years or more," she said. "He would have gone up in the ranks, definitely surpassed me.

"I bet he would have eventually gone into ESU - the Emergency Service Unit, the people on the scene helping in an emergency. He could always calm somebody."

When NYPD rookies Patrick Lynch and Christine Schmidt rescued fellow newbie Joseph Cho after he was bashed in the head on patrol in Queens last week, Heavey's thoughts turned to her and Reidy's first days out of the academy.

"A lot of this all came back - standing alone on a foot post," she said.

But she also thought about an important difference between her and Reidy and the rookies who put themselves on the line today.

"What is amazing," she said, "is that I was making about $25,000 in 1987."